- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2023

Sen. Charles E. Grassley is taking the FBI to task for allegedly providing more information to Russia than Congress as revealed in a Washington Times report about the bureau’s investigation of a U.S. charity at the behest of Moscow.

Mr. Grassley wrote to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray demanding an explanation for the 2004 investigation of the MacArthur Foundation despite Russia failing to level accusations of criminal wrongdoing, which was first revealed in documents obtained by The Times.

Russia‘s request and the FBI‘s ensuing probe of the Chicago-based nonprofit date back more than 18 years. Mr. Grassley said the documents are cause for serious concern absent any additional information from the FBI.

“It appears the FBI is willing to provide the Russian government more information — and at a quicker pace — than it does to the United States Congress,” wrote Mr. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The FBI must answer for its decision to conduct this investigation and transmit their findings to the Russian government, and it must clarify for Congress and the American people its policies for responding to requests made by foreign powers.”

In May 2004, Russia requested confirmation of the existence of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and asked for information about the transfer of millions of dollars in grants to Ukrainian citizens, according to the FBI‘s files.

The foundation was well-known at the time of the request, having operated an office in Moscow since 1992.

The FBI‘s Chicago office was tasked with fulfilling Russia‘s request and the MacArthur Foundation cooperated with the FBI without the government agents needing to get a court order or subpoena.

The records show the FBI provided the Russians with material gathered from the MacArthur Foundation, including details about individual grants to various people and information on the transactions including specific dollar amounts.

In his Jan. 10 letter to Mr. Wray, Mr. Grassley asked for unredacted copies of all records relating to the MacArthur Foundation probe and questioned whether the FBI had honored other foreign government requests to investigate U.S. nonprofits or corporations in the past 15 years. Mr. Grassley urged Mr. Wray to answer by Jan. 24.

Cato Institute senior fellow Patrick Eddington obtained the FBI files on the MacArthur Foundation probe in response to a Freedom of Information Act request alongside his team’s litigation against the bureau for access to government records. He said he was pleased to see Mr. Grassley questioning the bureau and hoped lawmakers would hold an oversight hearing on this and any similar matters at the FBI.

“The bureau should not respond to foreign government requests for information on American civil society organizations absent a credible allegation of criminal conduct on foreign soil,” Mr. Eddington said in a statement.

Mr. Grassley told Mr. Wray the bureau’s willingness to investigate an American entity at Russia‘s request is particularly concerning because of other failures to explain its investigations, including its probe of Concerned Women for America.

The FBI dug into the conservative group Concerned Women for America in 2016, found nothing to investigate, and later told Mr. Grassley in 2021 it did not need to explain its conduct.

The FBI‘s failure to fully explain its operations comes amid ample documentation of a long-standing pattern of rulebreaking on investigations. More than six years of the FBI‘s internal audits reviewed by The Times covering 2013 to 2019 showed more than 1,600 instances of broken rules for cases involving investigations that did not require warrants, used informants or undercover agents, and sensitive matters involving people engaging in politics, government, media, and religious groups.

The MacArthur Foundation did not respond to a request for comment. Previously, the foundation’s general counsel, Joshua Mintz, confirmed the FBI probe and said the foundation responded to the bureau’s request regarding its grantmaking process.

Nothing in the documents released by the U.S. government suggests that the MacArthur Foundation did anything criminal.

The FBI confirmed receiving Mr. Grassley‘s letter, but declined to answer questions on Thursday.

Correction: The Cato Institute obtained the FBI files regarding the MacArthur Foundation via a Freedom of Information Act Request separate from its ongoing litigation against the bureau.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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